Here are five things to do when your dog won’t go up or down stairs:
1. Get a veterinary/chiropractic checkup. If your dog is hurting or otherwise physically challenged, it may be too painful or difficult for it to travel stairs. A chiropractic adjustment and/or pain medication may have it scampering up and down in no time.
2. Carry your dog. Some small dogs (like Pomeranians or yorkies) just aren’t big enough to handle a full flight of stairs. If you have a small dog that does not like to be carried, you can teach it to jump into a carrier, and tote the carrier up and down the stairs.
3. Provide an alternative. In some cases, a ramp can be added to the stairs. This is also an option for aging dogs that might have difficulty with stairs. If your geriatric dog is having trouble and a ramp is not an option, you can use a towel as a sling under its abdomen to assist its back end up the stairs.
4. Shape it. Start at one end of the stairway, top or bottom, wherever it’s more comfortable, and click (or use a verbal marker) and give the dog a treat for any small movement toward the stairs. No coaxing or luring; just let it make all the decisions and moves. In time, your dog will be willing to do the entire flight.
5. Back chain it. This is another solution for tiny to medium dogs, not practical for large dogs, but it can work like a charm with smaller ones. Carry your dog up the stairs and set it down one step from the top. It sees safety just one step up and makes the attempt – one step is manageable for it, even if it’s afraid of stairs – and goes for the top. It made it! Feed it yummy treats, too, as added reinforcement for its superb effort. Repeat that process just one step at a time until it does that happily and easily, then add steps.
By the way, February is Canine Dental Health Month. Be sure to check with your local pet food supplier for all of the dental care products you need for your pet. Anything you can do to prevent gum disease is good for your dog or cat. Last, but not least, happy Valentine’s Day.
By John Mikesell